I recently learnt that the city of Barcelona is taking action against illegal tourist accommodation rentals in the city as they are causing locals to move to the fringes in order to be able to find affordable accommodation then forced to commute to their inner city jobs. Recent reports have highlighted that Eurobodalla has an affordable housing shortage. Some call it critical and that is highlighted during winter when it we realise that those sleeping in their cars actually are probably very cold and doing it tougher than most yet doing it better than those who have no car to sleep in. Eurobodalla has a very high percentage of holiday homes and by the latest Anglicare Affordable Housing report this shire has little if anything in the way of formalised long term house and unit rentals to offer those less off in the community. The Beagle has covered this before in an article about the less fortunate in the community, the mentally ill, the single parents with children, the elderly on a pension with additional needs, those who have a dependency and those who have fallen between the cracks being turned away from the rental property market, even if they have the funds, as they are not considered suitable by landlords. We have raised the issue and asked if it is something that Council can look at; or for that matter the State or Federal government. The Feds say that they provide funds to the State and the State says that they are stretched to the limit in providing and maintaining assisted accommodation. The response from Beagle readers was that Council can't do anything because home owners have the right to rent to whomever they choose and ask whatever rent they want. And they also reserve the right to leave their holiday home vacant all year if they wish. They can also rent on a night by night basis if they choose listing with sites such as Air BnB or Stayz. In the Eurobodalla Local Environmental Plan 2012 Clause 6.15 Part 6; Additional local provisions; it states: 6.15 Short-term rental accommodation (1) The objective of this clause is to enable the temporary use of dwellings as short-term rental accommodation for tourists and visitors without requiring development consent. (2) Despite any other provision of this Plan, development consent is not required for the temporary use of a dwelling as short-term tourist and visitor accommodation (except bed and breakfast accommodation). (3) In this clause, short-term tourist and visitor accommodation is tourist and visitor accommodation that is used as such for a maximum period of 45 consecutive days in any 12 month period. More and more we see holiday accommodation number rise and this has a major impact on the once traditional long term rental leases that are the cornerstone to home/life security for those who can't afford to buy into the property market or, for one reason or another, find themselves no longer with a property. The State Government is not coping at all with homelessness which is skyrocketing in metropolitan areas and on the steady increase in regional areas such as ours. Those who find themselves homeless don't want to move. They know the area well, they have friends in the area, possibly even family and with a small network of formalised and informal support many are able to just get by. There have been suggestions of building complexes for the homeless to move into, of allowing multiple occupancy on rural land, of having Council show tolerance for those who might live in an unapproved shed on a property and even allowing container type accommodation to provide short and long term solutions. The difficulty here is that many who are homeless are compromised one way or another. They each have their own unique differences and difficulties and simply because they are all in the same boat doesn't mean they will all get along. Many attempts have been made to provide enclaves of Housing for those in Need and they have failed because of lack of ongoing committed and informed support and because of the flaws that are often found in the lives of the tenants. Some of the flaws are dependency, others are based around morality, perception of self and value of self. Most who have the flaws don't know they have them. Hope House and Yumaro are two excellent examples where assisted accommodation work however both of these bodies provide a committed dedicated service that has network links to support agencies and professional services. A similar thing can be said of the crisis shelters however each and all know that their services are limited to any expansion by funding shortfalls. A recent informal local initiative to provide affordable long term accommodation at a multi roomed complex has resulted in a spike of petty crime in that area that locals are associating with the "new residents". This has resulted in locals informing each other of the crime spike and doing letter drops in the neighbourhood:
The reality probably is that some (or even just one) of the new residents need more money than they have access to; and local petty theft is their way of finding the difference. While many might feel that society should step in and help the homeless and the other crack dwellers and provide better accommodation support the reality is that if that solution is placed nearby then there will be an outcry from the neighbourhood with claims it will devalue properties in the area. Several years ago it was suggested that a "correctional institution be set up in Eurobodalla for young Koorie kids who had lost their way. The complex was to be on a rural property with an controlled gate policy and the kids were to be under the guidance of elders. The outcry by the surrounding locals in a radius of 10 km was loud as they all feared for the loss of their silver tea pots and their prize winning chickens along with the value of their plump properties. So the low key correctional complex didn't get off the ground and the boys who were destined to go there went into the prison system instead. Homelessness is on the increase across Australia and irrespective as to whether the government can provide affordable housing or not there is a need to return self worth to those who have fallen through the cracks. Local Government might not be able to provide a solution however when councils such as Eurobodalla publish social documents labled "One community" outlining how Council can best work together over the next 20 years to enable and achieve a strong, vibrant and diverse community it has to recognise that there is homelessness and there is a core need for support mechanisms and that it (Council) has a major role to play in bringing together key agencies to discuss solutions for its community. In the meantime our local underemployment rate grows, our youth unemployment grows, our pensioners are still without the concession cards (removed from them in January), electricity prices, water prices, rates, insurances, fees and overheads are all increasing driving more and more people to despair. Next time you venture to the city wander by the homeless and stop and say hello. You will meet grandparents, estranged partners, retirees ripped apart by the GFC, those with a mild mental illness turned out onto the street, those who have no references, those who are not suitable tenants due to race or even surname. Many are good people, and some are not, and funnily most of them don't get along with anyone as they have become disillusioned, cynical and even angry. But still civic leaders persist with "Let's build an enclave". The recent distribution of printed warnings to locals in Batemans Bay suggesting that crime is on the rise due to new "neighbours" in the area will probably continue.
As homelessness increases and drug and alcohol dependence soars spurring on more domestic violence that leads to more and more physical and mental breakdowns we will loose our warmth and openness, our trust and generosity of spirit and little by little we will morph into those we often mock from the city who walk by without making eye contact, never say hello and appear to be totally indifferent to all but themselves. Presently there is much we can be proud of locally. Food kitchens, donated goods, donated clothing but the numbers are building each day and at sometime there needs to be a community discussion at all levels to ask if where we are heading is the Australia we want.